Sunday NBA Hoops and NFL Draft: Linebackers

HEADS UP FOR A BIG SUNDAY HOOPS DAY IN THE NBA ...PLUS OUR NFL DRAFT COVERAGE ROLLS ON AS WE EXAMINE THE TOP INSIDE AND OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

By Jim Hurley:

In case you stopped counting, there's only 11 days left in this lockout-abbreviated NBA regular season but don't look ahead to that so-called "Second Season" just yet!

This mid-April Sunday card is chock full of goodies including the Miami Heat at New York Knicks game at "the world's most famous arena" and here's hoping this 1 p.m. ET game is nearly as good as last Sunday's Knicks' overtime win over the Chicago Bulls and than out West the other nationally-televised matinee affair (back-to-backers on ABC) - that's defending NBA champion Dallas at the Los Angeles Lakers - has lots of subplots not the least of which is will Lakers big man Kevin Bynum keep his cool for a full 48 minutes here? Hmmm.

If you're gonna be home in front of your flat-screen TV for the night-time action, than the 7 p.m. Eastern time tilt between Memphis at New Orleans (on NBA-TV) will have its fair share of drama too as the Grizzlies may well be the dark horse team that comes out of the West even though everyone else is talkin' up Oklahoma City, San Antonio and even the Los Angels Clippers.

The playoff push is on and the scrambling for best seeds is hot-and-heavy - don't sleep on this NBA Sunday card 'cause as many as 11 potential playoff-bound teams are in action ... so check it out!

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will continue to rock this 2012 Major-League Baseball season and remember there's still lots more NBA Regular-Season Winners too this spring and so sign up today and be sure to check in with us either right here online or else at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 for all the daily/nightly winners. Remember the NBA Playoffs begin later this month and you can sign up today for all the winnin' hoops action right through June.

THE NFL DRAFT

HERE'S THE CROP OF TOP LINEBACKERS (BOTH INSIDE AND OUT)

Our official NFL Draft coverage at Jim Sez continues today as we bring you our position-by-position analyses - here it's the top ILBs (Inside Linebackers) and OLBs (Outside Linebackers). Note that we will have our Jim Sez NFL Mock Draft Preview on Wednesday, April 25th. The NFL Draft will be held at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on April 26-27-28:

MELVIN INGRAM, OLB, SOUTH CAROLINA - Happy Birthday, Mr. Ingram! The sure-shot top 10 NFL selectee will turn 23 years old on Draft Night and he exits the college scene with 21 ½ career sacks and 30 ½ tackles for losses. No doubt Ingram - who's listed at 6-foot-2, 265 pounds - has a big-time up side as his game is still far from polished (he's a bit inconsistent off the snap) but he is extremely strong with great upper-body power and so he won't be knocked off his feet by 300-pound offensive linemen. Draftniks see Ingram going somewhere between #6 through #10 and we like him to be gobbled up by Jacksonville at #7 or possibly by Carolina at the #9 pick.

LUKE KUECHLY, ILB, BOSTON COLLEGE - This 6-foot-3, 243-pound tackling machine is a borderline top 10 draftee who could slip into that ninth spot with Carolina if Ingram's already off the board. Note that Kuechly - who collected 20 tackles (including eight solo) in a game against Florida State last season - was a three-time winner of the ACC's Linebacker of the Week award in 2011 and he's been favorably compared to one-time Miami Dolphins Pro Bowl LB Zach Thomas. No doubt Kuechley has great football instincts and there's some rumors floating around that Chicago - scheduled to pick 19th overall in Round One - won't be shy about trading up a few spots if they feel this former Eagles star won't last.

WHITNEY MERCILUS, OLB, ILLINOIS - Led the nation a year ago with 13 ½ QB sacks plus topped the charts too in the all-important forced fumbles category (eight) but there remains questions as to why he didn't play better in his first two years with the Fighting Illini. Note that Mercilus is 6-foot-4, 260 pounds and is cat-like quick but is not overly physical and can be neutralized as a rush defender. Still, some insiders believe he played his best ball in the team's biggest games a year ago and so may be a "prime-time" player who is being forecast as someone picked in the late teens but instead could go as high as #12 with Seattle - stay tuned.

DONT'A HIGHTOWER, ILB, ALABAMA - The scouts would rank a few defensive players above this 6-foot-2, 265-pound but according to college coach Nick Saban you can stick Hightower anywhere on a defense and he will thrive. Look for him to get snapped up somewhere in the draft's top 25 overall picks and, if there's a so-called run on LBs, than Hightower could go as high as #18 to San Diego or that aforementioned 19th pick to Chicago. His overall instincts for the game are tremendous - "no wasted steps" said one scout - and he's simply a winner and a true team leader.

SHEA McCLELLIN, OLB, BOISE STATE - Big ole farm boy who has a revved-up motor and loves to play but there are questions as to how this 6-foot-3, 260-pounder will handle elite athletes as his level of competition wasn't always great in college. McClellin should get snapped up sometime before the end of Round One with Baltimore at #29 and New England at #31 said to be interested.

MYCHAL KENDRICKS, ILB, CALIFORNIA - A slightly undersized defender at 5-foot-11, 240 pounds, this versatile 'backer played outside for two years in college before getting shifted inside in the 2011 season and keep in mind he was voted the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year despite playing for a Cal Golden Bears team that didn't receive all that much positive press. Hendricks started 29 games in college and that sort of experience is a definite plus but there's rumors floating about that he performed poorly on the NFL's much-ballyhooed Wonderlic test.

ZACH BROWN, OLB, NORTH CAROLINA - The conventional wisdom is that this 6-foot-1, 245-pounder will be a Round II selection but he could have some folks interested at the tail end of the opening round thanks to his raw athletic abilities as he continues to be a work in progress. Note that he excelled in a special teams role at Chapel Hill and that adds to his value - don't be surprised if he is the final pick of the first round with the Super Bowl champion New York Giants. Didn't they take an athletic OLB from North Carolina a few decades ago?

NOTE: Get more NFL Draft coverage along with the NBA and MLB all week and weekend long in our Jim Sez columns.

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